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May 28

The catcher in the surf

Posted on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 in Jobs, Strange and Unusual, The Asylum Experience


The Howler Monkeys.

I woke up in the middle of a dream where I was being attacked by Predator. It was outside my window with its glowing lasers and it was threatening to take away my sanitary towels.

Howler Monkeys sound ghostly. They sound like hound dogs from hell.

There is no need for this! I thought, as daylight seeped through my eyelids. Then I saw Curly beside me who turned with the discomfortable noise and peeped at me from under her eye mask. I was glad not to be alone, the sound was too creepy to suffer by myself at such a vulnerable time.

‘What the fuck is making that sound?’ she murmured.

‘Nnnnghh’ I replied.

We stayed there for a few minutes trying to doze through the cacophony, but it was useless. Just as well, we were due to surface by 7am so they were a pretty good alarm, those funky monkeys.

We dressed in our swimsuits, shorts and teeshirts. We wandered out to welcomes of ‘Hello Mammies!’ from the kids, I was glad not to have to shake them out of their sleepy comas, teenagers can be funny items when it comes to morning waking. I thanked the monkeys then and dropped the urge to shoot them, but the monkeys had quieted by then. Turns out they sleep for 15 hours a day, just not when we want to. It didn’t matter anyway, the coffee was that good.

By the time the coffee had kicked in, so had the cicadas. They were surround sound. Everywhere. They were so loud, they seemed to be inside my brain and I threw rocks into the trees but they wouldn’t quiet. Nature’s car-alarm.

‘Welcome to the jungle’, somebody said.

‘Thanks!’ I shouted.

Surfing began at 8am.


Several un-prepared teenagers were loaded into a van with sunscreen, surfboards, chairs, gallons of water, insect repellent, and a wheelchair or two. I expected to be driving for a half-hour or so, but after five minutes the drive was over. I walked back to fetch ice cubes, just for the excuse. It was a nice walk, there were squirrels and lizards, and they didn’t judge me.

My job as a mammy, with Curly and five other souls was to stay in the surf to catch children. We were the catchers in the rye, or the shallows as it were.

Disabled children were brought far out into the sea, placed onto a surfboard, and let. go.

It was amazing to see those faces, happy children who couldn’t have dreamt of such freedom sailing through churning waves on adaptive seaboards wiping through froth and foam and surfacing to hot sun and cheering supporters. I was glad to be there, so glad. As cheesy as it is to high-five people, I embraced it then for its effectiveness on the spirit.

It was done in teams of two. One disabled child with one able-bodied. I got to watch the contrast, it was surprising at times which one out of the two succeeded, but it didn’t really matter at the end. I felt sorry for those who had to remain at the beach in the shade waiting for their turn, five hours was a long wait in that heat. That was until I remembered that they could be still in Connemara so I smiled for them, and counted their shoes and listened to their jokes.

‘That wind would knock a knacker off your sister!’

Wit wasn’t something that was spared among these teenagers. They were sharp, but respectful.


Later after dinner, one took out her guitar that she’d lugged half-way across Earth, and began to sing a song about being down-trodden and seduced by fairy tales. She envied Cinderella and felt sorry for her at the same time, her voice struck silence between the other twenty chatterers… we listened and nodded and loved her voice. Then two more stood up, one kid rapped a rap that would put Jaden Smith to shame, accompanied by another who didn’t really know how to play the guitar but performed perfectly when caught up in the pace with his bud.

They asked me to play that night, and I could have, I was dying to… but I said no. I was to help with wheelchairs and scorpion-eviction so I promised to play tomorrow. I didn’t. I wasn’t nearly enough prepared to ¬†play in their company.

Cicadas died away. Lizards croaked sporadically.

We mammies retired, and tried desperately to gain connection to Facebook but when we finally gained an inch of signal we became distracted again by the condoms on the ceiling and weird dates we’d been on. We’d just begun a game of twenty questions when sleep overcame us. That was shortly before the monkeys howled again, but we were ready for them this time.



Bring on the comments

  1. Ginger Mick says:

    I can see how condoms on the ceiling would be a distraction. Dare one ask how they got there? Or am I on the wrong track and ‘condoms on the ceiling’ are similar to ‘bats in the belfry’ or ‘chewy on ya boot’?

  2. Brianf says:

    I am lovin’ this ongoing saga but I’m still jealous that you got to go to Costa Rica in the winter! :)

  3. K8 says:

    Ginger Mick; They were mosquito nets.. they hung from the ceiling and had a wire circle which shaped the hang. We never used them so they stayed up there, tied up in a knot. They might not have looked like condoms but we have dirty minds. I’d imagine ‘condoms on the ceiling’ would be a euphemism for just that!

    Brianf; It was spring here technically, but still snowing. The seasons are messed up all over the place, I blame gremlins.

  4. jo says:

    Gorgeous travel writing Kate, captivating x

  5. K8 says:

    Thanks! Can’t get into the grit of it though, I dunno what’s going on in this head of mine.

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